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New wrinkle in Yahoo rumors: A leveraged buyout

Private-equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners is reportedly interested in taking over all of Yahoo's U.S. operations.

If you don't have a scorecard handy, it might be difficult to remember all the companies vying for a part of Yahoo. From Silver Lake Partners to Microsoft, it seems just about every company with cash is considering buying a stake in the online giant. And now, add one more to the list.

Thomas H. Lee Partners (THL) has its eye on Yahoo's U.S. operations, Reuters is reporting today, citing sources. However, unlike some firms that want to bid for Yahoo's business, THL is eying a leveraged buyout that could cost it between $5 billion and $6 billion.

A leveraged buyout is a dramatically different tactic than what some of the other suitors are expected to use. According to the latest rumors surrounding Yahoo, most investment firms in the running would plan to offer cash to buy parts of the company. THL, on the other hand, wants to acquire stock to take over Yahoo's U.S. operation.

According to Reuters' sources, THL believes Yahoo could be a good fit for its portfolio, since the company has experience running media companies, including Nielsen, Clear Channel, and Univision. All told, THL has raised about $22 billion and invested in over 100 businesses "with an aggregate purchase price of more than $150 billion," it claims on its Web site.

The Yahoo gold rush started in September when the company fired CEO Carol Bartz, citing poor performance and an ailing stock price. Although Yahoo at the time promised to find another CEO, the company has yet to do so, and according to reports, has instead decided to focus its efforts on fielding buyout offers.

A slew of companies have been lining up to acquire all or part of Yahoo, including Silver Lake Partners, Microsoft, China's Alibaba Group, Bain Capital, and others. Even Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang is reportedly considering taking over the company.

For its part, Yahoo has not publicly confirmed that it's willing to sell off its company, and it continues to say that it's looking for a new CEO. But talk of buyouts has breathed some new life into the company's stock, which has grown 14 percent in the last three months to settle at $15.62.

Yahoo did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment on all the buyout rumors.